Having a house near Pylos and coming every summer for the past 8 years means that up until now we have pretty much exhausted all the main tourist attractions of Messinia. But the best thing about this beautiful region in southern Peloponnese is that there are always new places to discover even after so many years. One of the less visited but very beautiful is the southernmost tip of Messinia dropping down to the Akrotirio Akritas (Akritas Cape).
Most travelers pass from Koroni straight to Finikouda (or the other way around) on their trip around the south of Peloponnese avoiding Akrotirio Akritas altogether. If time is scarce this is surely the way to go. There is just too much to see in Peloponnese and it is not possible to fit everything into one holiday. However, if staying in the area for a little bit longer, a day-trip exploring this Natura 2000 reserve is a pleasant variegation.
There is only one developed beach at the cape called Tsapi. When visiting this beautiful sandy beach don’t forget to taste the delicious stuffed zucchini (γεμιστα κολοκυθακια) of Mrs. Maria at the tavern on the beach. They are the best I’ve ever tasted! Except for the two taverns, there is a campsite for those who wish to stay longer.
Tsapi is also one of the few places on the cape connected with the civilization by an asphalt road. The rest of the roads are mostly just agricultural dirt roads of varying quality. We made it to the Akrotirio Akritas and few of its beaches with our small Peugeot 106 without a problem. However, the truth is my boyfriend has some mad driving skills and there were hills where we were praying hard to make it to the top!
One of the beaches that’s not all that easy to reach but so worth the trouble is Marathi. We stumbled upon it while traveling virtually through Google Earth from our home in Athens and it seemed pretty awesome. The reality still managed to surpass all our expectation. However, there are no signs pointing to the beach and even the locals couldn’t provide any clear instructions for the trip. In the end, we found it easily following a simple google map navigation on our phone.
When coming from Finikounda follow the road for Vasilitsiο until a crossroad with a sign for Tsapi. About halfway between the crossroad and Tsapi a dirt road branches off to the right and down towards the sea. The road is not marked and there are others going to the orchards and small fields so use the navigation to make sure you’ll end up in the right spot. We didn’t drive all the way to the beach though but parked about halfway up. We walked the rest to give a break to our poor, slowly overheating car. The whole descent from the asphalt road could be done on foot, too. Just make sure to pack enough water for the climb back up. There is no option to refill the bottle along the way or down at the beach.
There are two beaches at Marathi both long golden strips of sand with shallow clear water. The second one is even more beautiful than the first one if that’s even possible. To get there, just cross the beach and follow a narrow path scrambling up and around the cliffs. Both beaches were completely deserted when we arrived as most of the rare visitors prefer the easily accessible Tsapi.
Another beach worth a visit is the Kalamaki Beach. It lies south of Vasilitsio at the end of the asphalt road heading south. The beach itself isn’t all that special, just a narrow strip of golden sand backed up by tall cliffs. But the water was amazing, shallow, calm and crystal clear. This spot is perfect for the kids, our four-legged friends or anyone afraid of the deep sea and huge sharks lurking in the darkness (you guessed right, that would be me).
From the Kalamaki Beach, a dirt road continues south across the hills to the Akrotiri Akritas. The road is not marked very well. We saw just one sign for the Akrotirio Akritas along the way, and there are many possibilities to go wrong. But following the navigation on my phone helped once again. Just search the directions for Koufoseratsia, a small cluster of summer houses about one kilometer from the Akrotirio Akritas.
From Koufoseratsia the road worsens and the views over the green hills towards the cape and the small Venetiko island open up. For passionate hikers, this is a good spot to park the car and continue on foot. My boyfriend managed to drive all the way down to the sea without an issue (the way up was another story) but I choose to walk and loved it. There is just something so relaxing in walking through the hot Greek countryside filled with the smells of thyme and oregano and the never-stopping songs of τζιτζίκια.
Just before the end, the road splits into two. The left branch leads down to the sea while the right climbs up to something like a viewpoint. There is a rocky beach at the end of the road but its filled with garbages washed out by the sea. The water is pretty cold, too at this point and there is a reason for that. Behind the small islands offshore hides the deepest point of the Mediterranean Sea dropping more than 5000m deep!
If you are feeling curious (like me) or enjoy scanning through random plastic stuff scattered along the beach (like my boyfriend) follow the shore all the way to the end. There is a smaller rocky beach there surrounded by tall cliffs with very “castaway on an uninhabited island” feel.
Heading back we passed a sign for the Tsapi Beach (4km) about halfway between Akrotirio and Kalamaki. This seemed as a great shortcut as we wanted to visit Tsapi anyway. Too late we realized how bad the road was and spent the next half an hour maneuvering among the potholes, bumps, and rocks. Downhill, this was a manageable task. However, I wouldn’t want to try the other way around and definitely not in a bad weather.